Lui Chun Naun o(below right) f the Shen Yang Chinese Opera Company does A Generals Dance at the Pace University Lunar New Year celebration, and P.S. 124 students (above) performed 8 Immortals Cross the Sea. (Downtown Express photos by Elisabeth Robert)
By Kara Bloomgarden-Smoke
Dancing dragons, blooming flowers and firecrackers intended to ward off evil spirits will be some of the sights as Chinatown ushers in the Year of the Dog.
Lunar New Year is also known as the Spring Festival, a time when the earth comes back to life and provides a fresh start. Blossoming flowers will cast a bright shadow this weekend at the third annual Lunar New Year Flower Market, which kicks off two weeks of festivities to celebrate Chinese New Year.
All across Asia, flower markets are a customary way to welcome in the new year. Flowers are seen as an especially auspicious symbol because the Cantonese word for flower shares homonymic qualities to the word for fortune. Organizers hope the azaleas, dahlias, chrysanthemums, peach and plum blossoms, peonies, narcissi and small orange trees blooming during the New Year celebration will begin a prosperous new year.
This is truly the cultural event that we have lacked, said June Jee, the director of Manhattan Community Relations for Verizon, one of the flower markets sponsors. Chinatown has often been secluded, now its time for our community to shine.
The Chinatown flower market attracted about 70,000 people last year, about double the number from the first year. Like the two previous years, there will be a heated tent with vendors selling a variety of flowers, but this year will be a new addition performances and artistic demonstrations by community artists. There will be a main stage within the tent with performances by the P.S. 1 Youth Choir, the Jubilee Youth Chorale, Harmonica player Jia Yi He, vocalist Christine Lee and an opera and violin presentation by the Florentine Music School. The artists will be stationed in a rotating schedule at four interactive artist booths and will demonstrate different traditional artistry ranging from face painting to Chinese knotting.
The event is organized by the Museum of Chinese in the Americas, the United East Athletics Association, and the Asian American Arts Alliance and has many sponsors from the community.
According to the Chinese zodiac, people born during the Year of the Dog are said to exhibit traits such as loyalty, honesty and humor. They can also be selfish, stubborn and eccentric and are thought to care little for wealth, yet somehow always seem to have money, according to legend. Both President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush were born in the Year of the Dog.
The market will be open from noon to 10 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 27 and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, January 28 at Columbus Park, between Mulberry, Bayard and Worth Sts. There will be a special welcoming ceremony featuring a traditional lion dance performance by the United East Athletics Associations lion dance troupe.
At noon on the first day of the new year, 4704, Sunday, Jan. 29, there will be a firecracker demonstration and ceremony held at the intersection if Mott and Bayard Sts. The demonstration will be followed by performances by traditional and contemporary Asian-American singers and dancers, as well as performances by many different lion, dragon and unicorn dance troupes along Chinatowns main streets. On Sunday, February 5, at 1 p.m., the annual Chinatown Lunar New Year parade and festival will begin with a kick-off ceremony at Canal and Mott Sts., then travel east on Canal to Bowery, south on Bowery, up East Broadway and wind up back on Mott St. in time for a 3 p.m. culture festival on Mott and Bayard Sts.